APSCUF v. Pennsylvania: Union Calls Professor Background Checks Unnecessary

Photo courtesy/ apscuf.org

By Charlese Freeman

Student Life Editor

The Association of State College and University Faculties or APSCUF is challenging The Common Wealth Court of Pennsylvania to stop the criminal background check requirement for all faculty on Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education school campuses.

  1. The battles raises the question, is it necessary for all college professors to have required background check?

In response to the Penn State child abuse scandal, the Pennsylvania State Legislate is now trying to make criminal background checks a requirement for college professors.

While APSCUF agrees with the courts that faculty working closely with children should have criminal background checks, APSCUF argues that majority of college professors work with adults, so the checks are unnecessary for them.

East Stroudsburg University APSCUF president, Dr. Nancy Van Arsdale says one of the initial rulings were people who work at the university level and who might come into contact with kids should all have background checks.

APSCUF believes this is a fare ruling to help prevent another incident like the one at Penn State.

Van Arsdale continues, “the state system interpreted it as well we better make sure that everybody that works here at ESU has to get a criminal background check, including student workers.”

“APSCUF filed some grievances and went to the courts to say we didn’t think that the legislature or the courts were interpreting correctly. We don’t disagree with background checks for people who work with children, but why should everyone who works at a college campus have to get background checks?”

Aside from the fact that the criminal background checks for all faculty maybe extreme, the cost of the criminal background checks is another factor to be considered.

“The cost of it is tremendous. When you have to go get finger printing and file this paper work and they have to run it through the criminal record system, and that’s what we were concerned about because financial resources are so precious,” said Van Arsdale.

Although the state legislature and APSCUF have slightly different perspectives on the criminal background check issue, they both understand that this is an important situation that needs to be addressed and handled in the best way possible.

“I don’t want any coach, professor or student teacher molesting any child. The faculty association doesn’t want that to happen, but we think it went overboard in terms of saying were just going to make everyone get a background check,” said Van Arsdale.

“We just became concern because in a time of tight money that just didn’t seem like a good way of spending resources.”

“We had lost some earlier challenges, but then one judge a year and a half ago took the stance and said everyone who works with children and everyone who teaches a 100 level class should have to get the background check,” said Van Arsdale.

The problem with this proposal is professor teaching the 100 level course still will not be coming into contact with minors because most professors teach these courses.

Van Arsdale stated that the important message is APSCUF was never opposed to people working with children getting the background checks.

They understood that aspect, but every faculty member getting the check just did not make sense.

APSCUF thinks the way the courts implemented the background checks with extreme measures.

This is still an ongoing issue.

Currently, a judge has ruled in in favor of APSCUF, noting that not everyone has to get the background checks; however, APSCUF is anticipating that the state system may appeal this decision.

“The tricky thing about all of this is we understand that the state system wants children to be safe; we want children, but when you’re talking about a thing like background checks you have to think about cost….you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars when you put a regulation like that in place and what does that take away from?”

APSCUF believes there is a way to have background checks where they are needed and save the money for other things that are important in higher education.

Unfortunately, criminal background checks are not always effective.

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